The Lions Of Judah Roar: Jewish Woman Donors Meet inside the Beltway

The fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton sat spellbound through a long speech by Rabbi David Hartman of Jerusalem—and didn’t simply arrive at the last minute to address an audience of 1,100 women donors to the United Jewish Appeal—should suggest the power that the “Lion of Judah” women are perceived to have in Washington. “Lions” are women who give $5,000 to $50,000 annually to UJA and each sports a gold lion brooch as evidence of her contribution.

The Lions, who span the age spectrum, announced at the conference $55 million in endowments to the UJA and more than $11 million in contributions to the 1996 Annual Campaign. Take note: in some communities, according to Lion of Judah Conference Chair Susan Stern, women’s contributions make up between one-third and one-half of all the UJA money raised.

In addition to Hillary Rodham Clinton (who wove into her own remarks several seamless references to Hartman’s speech) and Al Gore, five women senators and a host of incumbents and fundraisers from both parties came to speak and to pitch their own political wares. “There are plenty of places they could go to speak to women with money, like a country club,” said the Chicago lawyer sitting next to me at the banquet dinner one night during the conference. “The reason they’re all making an effort to come here is that these are women with money who also care about issues. It’s not just the money itself, but our willingness to spend it on causes that are important to us.”